CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kyrie Irving said he plans on playing in Sunday’s All-Star game after having missed the Celtics' past two regular-season games with a right knee strain.
While the optics of the decision don’t look great, Irving made it clear that he would not be doing so if there were any questions about his health.
“I’ve been resting for a minute, the treatment, it’s not fun,” Irving said. “It’s not fun doing that stuff everyday. It’s part of the job, trying to stay in shape; not being on the court as much as I would like to be. But it really just puts in perspective just how much I know my body. That’s the most important thing.”
Irving’s return to the lineup comes at a time when the Celtics put together back-to-back strong performances in his absence, winning on the road against a red-hot Philadelphia team whose trade deadline acquisitions have bolstered their title contention hopes. Boston followed that up 24 hours later with a win over the Detroit Pistons, who are in a tightly contested fight for one of the last playoff spots in the East.
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The progress Irving has made with his rehab was among the chief considerations in his decision to play on Sunday.
“It factored in a lot,” Irving said. “For me, I just wanted to go out there and play if I had the opportunity. I do get paid to play basketball. So being off for seven days, six days, doing what I can to prepare my body and being able to go up and down before I play next Thursday [at Milwaukee]. I was like, ‘hey, if I have the opportunity, great. If I don’t...I wasn’t going to be sad or anything like that. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be an all-star. There’s not too many chances you get to be around Kawhi Leonard, being around KD [Kevin Durant] and have a starting lineup like we do. That was on my mind, but it didn’t factor going in to taking care of my health and making sure I’m good to play.”
Irving, earning his sixth All-Star appearance, has had one of his most complete seasons as an NBA player. He is averaging 23.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 6.9 assists per game while shooting 49.8 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range. Irving is the only player in the NBA averaging at least 23 points and six assists while shooting better than 40 percent from 3-point range.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge had each said earlier this week that they were OK with Irving playing in the All-Star Game Sunday night in Charlotte if he were medically cleared and Irving thought he could.
Stevens actually said he'd prefer Irving play as a way of getting prepared for the Celtics' resumption of the regular season Thursday night against the East-leading Bucks in Milwaukee.
Irving was voted in as an All-Star starter and was the second pick of his former teammate LeBron James, who'll captain one team of stars against another captained by the Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Warriors' Kevin Durant was James' first pick.
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